Picking Hotels

I have spent a lot of time traveling lately, and organizing hotels in various locations.  I hate picking hotels.  There are so many variables beyond price.  What size are the beds?  (Especially important if you have a full room!) Is breakfast included, and what is it?  What about parking?  Is there a charge for internet access?  Does it have a pool?  (Very important when the kids have been cooped up in the car.)  What other amenities might be included?

This week gave me the opportunity to refine my priorities.  My sisters and I traveled to California for a funeral.  I was in charge of making hotel reservations.  We wanted to be close to the house and the closest accommodations were bed and breakfasts.  B&Bs tend to be a little more expensive than hotels, but sometimes the extra cost is a good investment.  There was a lovely B&B just one block from the house, but it was $149 each night, nearly twice as expensive as the other hotels in the area.

I balked at the idea of asking my sisters to pay more for the room, so I started looking at less expensive options.  There were some 60’s era beach hotels in the $60 to $70 range.  Worried about quality, I started reading reviews.  I’m starting to think that the reviews are more of a problem then then a help, at least for me.  I’d find a good review, then a bad one.  I was overwhelmed!

In a fit of frustration, I called a sister who offered to take over the hotel planning.  She quickly found us a highly-rated hotel on Priceline for an $80 a night.  It wasn’t as convenient, requiring us to drive back and forth, but that was OK.  Breakfast wasn’t included, but perhaps that would be OK, too.  After all, we were getting an outstanding room for a $70 discount.  When we arrived, in two different cars, we discovered that parking was $20 a car.  Each night!  One person decided to pay it, the other decided to park on the street and keep running out to move the car.  Our Priceline reservation didn’t let us specify bed sizes, so we had four people in two doubles.  I like my sisters a lot but that was a little close for comfort.  And there was a charge for internet, so we didn’t use that!  The next morning, we spent $60 at breakfast.  Admittedly, we splurged a little, but it still wasn’t an extravagant breakfast.  We got separate checks at breakfast on the second day, but I still think that we spent nearly as much.

So let’s do the math:  $80 for the hotel room.  Plus $20 for parking.  And $60 for breakfast.  And the inconvenience of not having ready internet.  And driving back and forth, and moving the car.  Granted, it was a beautiful room, and everything was spotless and well appointed, and it was easy enough to get more towels and things.  However, we ended up spending more for the bargain room than we would have spent on the original B&B room that I thought was too expensive.

I’m filing this trip away in the “picking hotels” part of my brain.  Next time, I’ll remember to ask about parking, and internet.  And I will certainly remember that breakfast bill!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.